Name as it appears on the ballot: Floyd B. McKissick Jr.
Campaign website: mckissickfornc.org
Phone number: (919) 490-5373
Years lived in the district: Approximately 11 years, however, I was born in Durham and I have lived in Durham the vast majority of my life.
1. What do you think are the three biggest issues facing our state? If you are an incumbent, what have you done to address those issues, and what more would you do if given another term? If you are a challenger, what would you do differently to address those issues than the incumbent has done?
1- Our State’s most important issue must be adequately funding our public education system, which includes not merely kindergarten through 12th grade, but our community college and public university system. Education provides the best pathway to good jobs and economic prosperity, regardless of the circumstances a child is born into. If we have a strong and effective public school system, we can prepare a child not merely to read and write proficiently, but to acquire the skillsets that are necessary to advance their lives and position in society. As an African-American male who grew up in the segregated South, who was born before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which declared that public schools could not operate under a “separate but equal” philosophy, I uniquely appreciate the impact of school systems that did not provide equal access to educational resources. I have also observed how so many people have substantially benefitted from the education they obtained in a post-Brown v. Board of Education society. There have obviously been many legal barriers which previously existed which have increased access to opportunities as well. These efforts have led to the breaking of proverbial glass ceilings in business, industry, government, and politics.
I am deeply concerned by the underfinancing of public education as we have traditionally known it since the Republican majority took control of the N.C. General Assembly in 2011. Not only do budget cuts need to be restored, but we must proactively chart a course that renews and doubles down on our commitment to provide everyone in our state with what we are constitutionally required to provide under our state’s constitution, which is a strong and effective public education. For example, North Carolina is ranked 37th among the 50 states in Teacher pay. On average our teachers earn approximately $10,000 per year less than the national average. We rank 39th among the 50 states in per-pupil expenditures and last year we ranked 50th among the 50 states in Principal pay. These are inequities we must seriously address as well as improving the academic quality of the education provided to our students. We must not just reduce our school dropout rate we must also strive to bring our high school dropout rate to 0. It is also imperative that we provide excellent post-secondary education in our 58 community colleges and through our public university system.
Unfortunately, today there are still disparities in the quality of education students are receiving across our state which must be eliminated.
We also need to immediately fund the backlog of students for the North Carolina Pre-K Program (formerly More at Four) and to expand the eligibility of students allowed to participate in the program. Our traditional public education programs should be supplemented so that students and teachers have the resources that they need to enable students to achieve their highest potential. We must provide teachers with the training which they need to be effective in the classroom. I fully support the idea of having teachers or other specialists certified in teaching reading in kindergarten through third grade to better enable our students to acquire the reading skills and proficiency which they need at an early age. There is so much we can do that it is hard to know where to start but having adequate funding and making this a priority is critical to success. We must make a conscious choice to chart this course and be deliberate in our strategies to obtain this outcome. This is a goal most citizens would embrace, and a perspective shared by those in business and industry who want a competent, qualified workforce for the jobs of the future, many of which don’t yet exist as of today. We must prepare to meet this unique challenge.
2- We need to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage to an estimated 500,000 North Carolinians who do not have health insurance coverage today. Not only do we need to increase access to healthcare and, in addition, we must devote the resources that are necessary to eradicate disparities in healthcare and outcomes. We need to do all that we can to make certain that the rural hospitals in our state remain viable healthcare providers, since their ability to compete and to provide services has been profoundly jeopardized since our state did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Healthcare costs and access to healthcare services in our state could also be impacted if Certificates of Need are repealed. Their repeal could lead to the most profitable sectors of healthcare services being provided by specialized clinics at a lower cost, which would not have to provide 24-hour services or indigent care, unlike traditional hospitals. If these types of specialized facilities move to rural areas, it could result in the closing of rural hospitals. These are all problems that we need to address as a State.
3- There is obviously a great deal that can be done to decrease gun violence and the proliferation of firearms in North Carolina. The question is, do we have the political will to do so? It is possible that in light of the growing concerns expressed by students and organizations which were the direct outgrowth of the Parkland school shooting in Florida, that there is a greater probability that progress can be made on modest, incremental changes, but certainly not profound and significant changes.
There should certainly be legislation passed that raises the age for purchasing firearms to twenty-one, and which prohibits the sale of assault-style weapons to consumers, and bump stocks should also be prohibited. In addition, background checks and waiting periods prior to gun purchases should be expanded. These are all rather modest changes compared to the types of changes that are actually needed.
We also need to fully fund budgets that provide for school psychologists and school counselors in our public schools. This would assist us in identifying and helping students with mental health challenges before those occasional individuals that are deeply disturbed commit acts of violence that can hurt themselves or others. This past year I introduced legislation to fully fund our state’s unmet need for school psychologists and school counselors. According to national standards, our school system should have 1 school psychologist for every 750 students. In reality, we have 1 for approximately every 2,000 students. The recommended ratio for school counselors is 1 for every 350 students. Unfortunately, we have only 1 for approximately every 450 students. This year I also introduced a bill that would allow for gun violence protective orders which would allow a law enforcement officer, pursuant to a court order, to remove guns or weapons from the possession of a person who presented a threat to himself or to others based upon the credible report of someone who lives or resides with the person, or based upon
information provided to law enforcement. There are many states who have enacted this type of legislation, and we could use it in NC to reduce the potential for weapons being used in a destructive manner.Unfortunately, since the Republican majority took control of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011, we have seen legislation pass which has gone the wrong direction. For example, there has been legislation passed to permit people to carry firearms in funeral processions, to sporting events, onto public college and university campuses, into restaurants that serve beer and alcohol, on to playgrounds, and there is legislation pending now that would pretty much make it unnecessary to have a concealed carry permit. All of these types of policies have literally increased the places that people can carry firearms and increased the probability of people using them inappropriately in such locations. According to an article which I recently read, in 2016 in North Carolina over 1,400 people died from guns. In addition, homicides from guns increased 27% in one year alone over the preceding year. These types of statistics should give us a great deal of concern. As a victim of gun violence over thirty-two years ago, I am firmly and vigorously committed to programs and initiatives that will limit access to firearms and which will improve the safety of firearms in the homes and businesses of those who choose to own them.
I have worked vigorously in the past to help our state adopt policies consistent with the priorities set forth above, and I intend to continue to do so in the future.
2. It seems hardly a day goes by without news of another mass shooting. On the state level, what changes to gun laws, if any, do you support? If you do not support any changes, please explain why you think the current laws are successful.
See Bullet 3 from Question 1
3. In recent years, Duke Energy’s coal ash spilled into the Dan River and Chemours’s GenX leaked into the Cape Fear River. Do you think these companies have been held sufficiently accountable? Do you believe the state has put in place sufficient regulations to prevent these problems from occurring again? If not, what more do you propose doing?
I believe the state must vigorously monitor and seek full and complete compliance with the coal ash disposal plans currently being implemented. If violations are discovered, Duke Energy should be held accountable for correcting any violations in an expedient manner. Vigorous monitoring and enforcement are the best tools available to us at this time unless new legislation is enacted which would go beyond the legislation currently in place relating to the disposal of coal ash in NC.
We must also provide our State Department of Environmental Quality with the staff and resources which it needs to identify contaminants in our water such as GenX, and to establish appropriate protocols and remedies to identify sources of contaminants and to remove them from the waters of our state.
4. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, at least six hog-farm lagoons were damaged and more than fifty saw discharges or were inundated with floodwaters as of this writing, according to the DEQ. More than five thousand hogs have died, and right now it’s unclear what the ultimate long-term environmental impacts will be. Since Hurricane Floyd, environmentalists have warned that, in a severe flooding event, the farms’ “anachronistic” waste-disposal techniques could pose a threat to the state’s waterways and public health, while the industry has insisted that its farms utilize best practices and are already heavily regulated. Do you believe these farms, and their lagoons, pose a risk to the environment? If so, do you believe the state has done enough to minimize that risk?
I believe that hog waste lagoons present a serious environmental risk in addition to being a nuisance to those who live or reside near them. I believe that the state could do far more to mitigate these risks and to identify alternative technologies which can be utilized to address hog waste and related environmental problems.
5. This year, Smithfield Foods—the world’s largest pork producer—has lost three verdicts in North Carolina totaling millions of dollars, after juries found that its farms’ methods of waste disposal infringed on the property rights of their neighbors. But in the last two years, the General Assembly has taken steps to make it more difficult for these neighbors to sue or to recover substantial damages, citing the threats these lawsuits pose to the well-being of family farmers. Do you believe the legislature’s actions with regard to these nuisance lawsuits are prudent? Why or why not?
I have vigorously and articulately opposed changes to our state’s nuisance laws that would limit and restrict opportunities for property owners who live or reside near hog farming operations to recover damages in nuisance litigation. I believe the changes in the laws were unwarranted and unnecessary, and that they will restrict opportunities for property owners to recover damages in the future.
6. It has been estimated that special sessions of the North Carolina legislature cost about $50,000 per day. Since 2016, the General Assembly has called seven of them to deal with everything from passing HB 2—the so-called bathroom bill—to passing restrictions on the governor’s powers after Roy Cooper defeated Pat McCrory to, most recently, clean up controversial constitutional amendment language so that it complied with a court order. Under what circumstances do you think it’s appropriate to hold a special session?
It is literally impossible to identify the circumstances or conditions under which a Special Session of the General Assembly would be necessary. Certainly, if a court order is entered which requires the redrawing of legislative or congressional districts or is related to a variety of other legal matters, then a Special Session of the General Assembly should be called. In addition, if there is a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornados, or even an earthquake where special relief needs to be addressed, then a Special Session should be called. If there are issues related to the health, safety, or welfare of the citizens of our state, then a Special Session should be called. We should, however, be exceedingly careful and reluctant to allow Special Sessions to be used to achieve political outcomes or gains for improper motives or purposes.
7. What are your thoughts on the six proposed constitutional amendments before voters this November? Please explain which you support and which you don’t support and why. What do you think about the process behind these amendments—what critics have described as a limited public debate, for example, as well as the elimination of amendment numbers and ballot summaries, and the lack of so-called implementing legislation, which could be passed in another special session after the November vote?
All six of the proposed constitutional amendments are unneeded, unnecessary, and they are specifically designed and targeted by the Republican majority in the General Assembly to appeal to certain demographic groups that are a part of their base which they hope will turn out for the November election to mitigate the opportunity for Democrats to win in an off-year election. I opposed each of these amendments in debate and discussion in the NC Senate, and I have not hesitated to make my thoughts and opinions known after they passed. They are an attempt by the Republican majority to expand their powers without regard to the traditional roles of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Their goal is simply partisan political gain.
8. In May, thousands of teachers from all over the state marched on the legislature to demand better pay, more resources for students, and more respect. Do you think North Carolina’s schools are being adequately funded? If not, what taxes would you be willing to raise—or what services would you be willing to cut—to fund them better?
If you review my answer to Part 1 of Question 1, it addresses specifically some of my priorities relating to education. I believe it is absolutely essential that we adequately fund our K-12, Pre-K, Community Colleges, and Public Universities in NC. Some of this can be accomplished through revenue growth which is appropriated towards our educational needs in NC. Our state has seen significant revisions made to our taxation policies since the Republican majority took control of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011. Today, rather than having a progressive personal income tax, we have a flat tax. This means that high-income earners who once paid a tax rate of 7.25 to 7.75% today only pay 5.25% of their income in taxes. In addition, the corporate income tax rate has been reduced from 6.9% to 2.5%, effective in 2019. When I have spoken to businesses in Research Triangle Park, they have all told me that they did not ask for income tax cuts and that they did not locate in North Carolina because of our tax rate. Instead, it would be their preference that they pay their fair share in taxes and that the funds be used to invest in our public schools and university system so that they can have the most qualified workforce in the future. Most high-income earners who I’ve met have also indicated that they don’t mind paying their fair share in taxes, rather than paying the same rate that middle-income earners pay. We need to rethink our taxation policies, but more importantly, what our long-term needs are as a state, and how we will financially provide for them. We need to increase teacher pay, principal pay, and provide our public schools and universities with the resources that are necessary to help our students acquire the skillsets that are needed to compete academically and in the workplace. This means increasing our per-pupil expenditures as well.
9. Currently, twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum. North Carolina is not among them. Do you believe North Carolina should raise its minimum wage?
Yes, and I have introduced legislation in the past to raise our state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, and to link future increases in our minimum wage to increases in the cost of living index.
10. Under current law, toward the end of 2020, municipalities will gain the authority to pass nondiscrimination and living wage ordinances—unless the General Assembly intervenes. Since the winner of your race will be in office at that time, do you believe local governments in North Carolina should be allowed to make these decisions for themselves?
11. Over the last couple of years in Wake County, county commissioners and school board members have battled over local school funding. Recently, some commissioners have made moves to petition the legislature to allow for a pilot program in which the Board of Commissioners turns over school-taxing authority to the Board of Education, as is the arrangement in most states. In general, do you believe the state’s elected school boards should have the responsibility to raise taxes for the schools they oversee? Why or why not?
I have not studied this issue; therefore, I am not in a position to express an opinion at this time.
12. Since Governor Cooper’s election, the legislature has taken a number of steps to assume powers that were previously the executive’s domain, including overhauling the State Board of Elections. Do you believe these decisions were merely power grabs, as Democrats have alleged, or that they were made in the interests of public policy?
I have no doubts nor reservations that these moves were unabashed political power grabs by the Republican majority in the General Assembly to undercut Governor Roy Cooper’s powers as the governor of our state.
13. Over the last year, the state has frequently found itself in court over its legislative and congressional districts, which courts have ruled to be unconstitutional racial and partisan gerrymanders. Given this, do you believe the state legislature of that last several years has acted as a legitimate body? If not, what do you propose as a solution? If yes, please tell us why.
While the membership of the General Assembly was substantially influenced as a result of the drawing of racially or politically gerrymandered districts, we are nevertheless a legally constituted body that was elected from these districts. Only the courts can implement a remedy to correct this, which is exactly what they have done this November with the new districts that were drawn which will impact approximately 28 members of the General Assembly. Our congressional districts are clearly the result of political gerrymandering at this time, however, both the plaintiffs and the defendants in the litigation relating to these congressional districts all agreed that it was too late to remedy the problem in time for this year’s election.
14. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.
I cannot recall at this time specific instances where my thoughts or opinions have been changed, however, I’m sure there are many occasions where, as a result of debate, discussion, or dialogue, my thoughts relating to an issue were influenced.
15. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.
I’m sure that my position on sensible and reasonable legislation that would influence access to firearms would be one of those issues.